a moderate drinker; he may or may not become a continuous hard
drinker; but at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose
all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink.
alcoholic]--, the happy day may not arrive. He has lost control. At a
certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, he passes into a
state where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely
no avail. This tragic situation has already arrived in practically
every case long before it is suspected.
No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his
fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers
have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could
drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will
control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every
abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing.
Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.
we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion
that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.
We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control
our drinking. We know that no --[real alcoholic]-- ever recovers
control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but
such intervals-usually brief-were inevitably followed by still less
control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible
demoralization. We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type
are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period
we get worse, never better.
are not going to believe they are in that class. By every form of
self-deception and experimentation, they will try to prove themselves
exceptions to the rule, therefore nonalcoholic. If anyone who is
showing inability to control his drinking can do the right- about-face
and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we
have tried hard enough and long enough to drink like other people!
Page 34: As we look back, we feel we had gone on drinking many years
beyond the point where we could quit on our will power. If anyone
questions whether he has entered this dangerous area, let him try
leaving liquor alone for one year. If he is a --[real alcoholic]-- and
very far advanced, there is scant chance of success. In the early days
of our drinking we occasionally remained sober for a year or more,
becoming serious drinkers again later. Though you may be able to stop
for a considerable period, you may yet be a potential alcoholic. We
think few, to whom this book will appeal, can stay dry anything like a
year. Some will be drunk the day after making their resolutions; most
of them within a few weeks.
Page 35: We told him what we knew of alcoholism and the answer we had
found. He made a beginning. His family was re-assembled, and he began
to work as a salesman for the business he had lost through drinking.
All went well for a time, but he failed to enlarge his spiritual life.
To his consternation, he found himself drunk half a dozen times in
rapid succession. On each of these occasions we worked with him,
reviewing carefully what had happened. He agreed he was a --[real
alcoholic]-- and in a serious condition. He knew he faced another trip
to the asylum if he kept on. Moreover, he would lose his family for
whom he had a deep affection.
to dwell on the hopeless feature of the malady. Show him, from your
own experience, how the queer mental condition surrounding that first
drink prevents normal functioning of the will power. Don't, at this
stage, refer to this book, unless he has seen it and wishes to discuss
it. And be careful not to brand him as an alcoholic. Let him draw his
own conclusion. If he sticks to the idea that he can still control his
drinking, tell him that possibly he can-if he is not too alcoholic.
But insist that if he is severely afflicted, there may be little
chance he can recover by himself.
unable to stay on the water wagon even when he wants to. He often gets
entirely out of hand when drinking. He admits this is true, but is
positive that he will do better. He has begun to try, with or without
your cooperation, various means of moderating or staying dry. Maybe he
is beginning to lose his friends. His business may suffer somewhat. He
is worried at times, and is becoming aware that he cannot drink like
other people. He sometimes drinks in the morning and through the day
also, to hold his nervousness in check. He is remorseful after serious
drinking bouts and tells you he wants to stop. But when he gets over
the spree, he begins to think once more how he can drink moderately
next time. We think this person is in danger. These are the earmarks
of a --[real alcoholic]--. Perhaps he can still tend to business
fairly well. He has by no means ruined everything. As we say among
ourselves, "He wants to want to stop."
of drinkers. Let's call them Types 1, 2, and 3 for the purposes of
this discussion. Sometimes they were called (Type 1) "social
drinkers," (Type 2) "heavy drinkers," and (Type 3)
Richmond Walker, in Twenty Four Hours a Day (1948), referred to the
last category as "merry go round drinkers."
Mrs. Marty Mann makes this same kind of distinction in the book she
wrote for the National Council on Alcoholism. Our South Bend good old
timer, Brownie, makes that three-fold distinction in the material
about him in The St. Louis Gambler and the Railroad Man. Dr. Jellinek
(and many others) tried to make distinctions of this same sort during
the 1940's and 1950's.
alcoholically from the time they took their very first drink. The
first time they had a chance at a bottle (even if they were just
teenagers), they drank themselves rip roaring drunk, and they just
kept on drinking that way from that point on.
But other alcoholics started out as social drinkers, and then
gradually began drinking more and more, until finally after enough
years they crossed some invisible line, and became clearly and
unambiguously alcoholic drinkers.
are concerned with alcoholism have found that they also have to make
some kind of distinction between people who are drinking a lot, and
people who are alcoholics. You cannot measure the amount of alcohol
that is consumed and use that to determine who is a heavy drinker and
who is an alcoholic.
medical doctors, and so on, to try to identify where you make the
division between Type Two heavy drinkers (or "alcohol abusers" or
whatever term you're using) and Type Three genuine alcoholics.
here, because there have been a variety of different terms used over
But as far as I can see, the basic distinction historically has been a
simple one. A Type Two heavy drinker (or alcohol abuser, or whatever)
who is given sufficient reason to stop drinking, will be able to stop
on his own simply by using will power. Maybe his doctor puts him on a
heart medication and tells him that he has to take the medication to
save his life, and that this medication cannot be mixed with alcohol
in the system. Or something in his life puts him in a situation where
he will get in enormous trouble if he does not quit. So he simply
grits his teeth, and stops drinking. Just like that. Permanently.
A Type Three true alcoholic will find that he cannot stop drinking on
his own, by his own will power, no matter how serious the consequences
are going to be. His wife says that she will leave him, his employer
says that he will fire him, the judge says that he will give him
twenty years in prison the next time he drives drunk, his doctor says
that he will be dead within a year if he keeps on drinking. But no
matter what it is, a true alcoholic will STILL keep drinking, in spite
of all that, if he is trying to do it by himself by his own willpower.
If you listen to tape recordings of the good old timers, you will find
numerous examples of alcoholics whose drinking was destroying them
totally, who still could not stop on their own, simply by using will
One thing which muddies the waters nowadays, is that (beginning with
Dr. Jellinek's famous chart back in the 1940's) the experts on
alcoholism have assembled data on the way that the disease of
alcoholism progresses, where they can spot the symptoms of Type Three
chronic alcoholism much earlier than they could in the 1930's and
1940's. So nowadays we can sometimes identify a person as definitely
a chronic alcoholic early in the progression of the disease, and send
that person off to AA, and save that person an awful lot of misery and
heartbreak, EVEN THOUGH in early AA they would not have allowed that
person to attend AA meetings because they would have felt that this
person's drinking did not qualify him or her to be a "true
So is this particular individual a Type Two heavy drinker who is
getting himself or herself in trouble, and maybe needs some
encouragement to quit doing that from a psychotherapist or someone
Or is this particular individual a Type Three alcoholic EARLY in the
progression of the disease, who hasn't gotten himself or herself in
major trouble yet, but who nevertheless is going to need AA in order
to quit? In current AA jargon, we would sometimes call this kind of
person a "high bottom" drunk.
So what Fiona was asking was, were the people in that statistical
table who went to AA meetings for a year and then quit going to
meetings but were still sober even five years later, actually Type
Three alcoholics? Or were they Type Two heavy drinkers who got sober
in AA meetings, but actually would have been able to get sober all on
their own anyway, just by using their own willpower?
misdiagnosed as early stage Type Three alcoholics?
alcoholic to quit going to meetings? If they quit going to meetings,
will Type Three alcoholics ALWAYS inevitably go back to their
alcoholic drinking sooner or later? The good old timers in my part of
Indiana say (on the basis of their many years of experience) that Type
Three genuine alcoholics will ALWAYS go back to drinking eventually if
they quit going to AA meetings, with the one exception that a few do
manage to use church going as a substitute for AA meetings, and can
stay sober that way.
Fiona's question is not some nit picking question about numbers and
statistics, but a word of warning about something which could cost
alcoholics their lives if they make the wrong decision. Fiona is
warning all of us (based in her case of her knowledge of Irish
alcoholics): do NOT assume on the basis of those 3 and 5 year survival
rate statistics which were recently posted that you will have some
hope of staying sober if you quit going to AA meetings.
Given the fact that Fiona's Irish alcoholics and my own Hoosier
alcoholics here in Indiana seem to suffer the same fate if they quit
going to AA meetings, I would advise anyone reading these AAHL
postings to take Fiona's warning with deadly seriousness. Her warning
is simple: don't use those 3 and 5 year survival statistics to play
games with your life, if you are a true alcoholic.
baffling, and powerful. Also patient, sneaky, and lying. Many a true
alcoholic here in my part of Indiana has gone to AA meetings and
stayed sober for a long time (maybe even ten years of more) until the
voice of Mr. Alcoholism inside that person's head has started
murmuring, "You know, I haven't had any trouble staying off the booze
these past ten years, and you know, I'm not really like some of these
other people in the AA meetings. I'm more intelligent than they are,
have more will power and self control. I never fell as low as they
fell. Maybe I'm not really an alcoholic at all. Maybe I was just a
heavy drinker, you know, somebody who just got carried away sometimes.
But I'm so much older and wiser now. You know, I think it would be
safe now, after ten years, to go out and have a little social drink."
We have a lot of retreads here in Hoosier AA who let themselves listen
to that lying voice inside their heads, and went back out drinking,
and then had to suffer years of misery before they finally came
dragging themselves back in the doors of AA, admitting finally, "O.K.,
I guess that I (even I) actually am an alcoholic of some sort, the
kind who needs AA meetings if I want to live instead of dying."
it again after ten years or so, are people who tell us later on that
in fact they never worked the steps, even though they went to
meetings. It is particularly doing a really thorough and deep
reaching Fourth Step which is vital if you want people to give you the
ultimate accolade at your funeral, and say with enormous respect in
their voices, "he died sober," "she died sober."
So to Fiona's warning, I will add my own. Don't use those 3 and 5
year survival rate statistics which were posted to play games with
your life. Keep on going to meetings. Keep up constant contact with
your fellow AA members. Do a real Fourth Step and ferret out all of
the resentment and fear in your life, and figure out what all your
character defects are, so you won't be tempted to look down your nose
at ANYBODY in an AA meeting, thinking yourself superior to that person
in any way whatsoever. http://hindsfoot.org/tools.html
alcoholics could eventually quit going to AA meetings and still be
sober 3 years later, or even 5 years later, that is till playing
Russian roulette with a six gun with four chambers loaded. And 5
years isn't 10 years or 15 years.
South Bend, Indiana, U.S.
(A REAL alcoholic, sober today ONLY by the grace of God and the help
of the people in this fellowship, who is not planning on jumping out
of the lifeboat, thank you!)
++++Message 3028. . . . . . . . . . . . Re: Data on 3 and 5 year survival
(pmds at aol.com)
alcoholism is a purely physical disease like diabetes. All of what you
say is true as Dr. Silkworth points out in his Opinion and the
"phenomenon of craving" which develops after the first drink.
you teach a diabetic to adjust his insulin level and diet and "problem
(after hospitalization) because thats where the phenomenon begans and
problem solved right??????? Its common sense, no first drink no
problem????? You tell someone allergic to strawberries, no
strawberries and they'll usually avoid them, same thing with booze,
insanity of being without any ability not to take the first drink
after a period of sobriety. Its the mental obsession not the
compulsion that requires 15 month long trips to the treatment center.
Anyone who reads the Jerry McAuley books from the late 1800's knows
that people were recovering from alcoholism thru spiritual experience
long before AA. And Bill also supported research into any medical
research that would help. If you look closely at his life you'll see
that Bill formally divorced AA in 1955. HE SPENT THE REST OF HIS LIFE
TRYING TO HELP THE ALCOHOLIC FOR WHOM AA DID NOT WORK. Thats really
what the sub-secret LSD papers at Stepping Stones reveal. Its also
what the enormous work he did on nicotinic acid aka niacin aka vitamin
B-3 and its effect on Alcoholism.
serious issues. But with alcoholism its not a football game between
the AA's and the non-AA's. Its Alcoholics who have decided thats what
they are (or whatever label you want to put on someone who can't stop
drinking when they want to) vs. the mental obsession that somehow,
someway, we'll be able to drink without the consequenses of the one
way elevator ride.
The easy way (my opinion) is to become like a leaf on the ground
fighting nothing for a year surrounded by people who have succeeded
somehow. No fight, just let the wind blow us around for awhile. (Of
course this is always when the significant other we've been waiting
for our entire life shows up and we entangle ourselves - or "we're
just going to be friends" - or "listen, its just sex, not a
relationship". We're complicated. Our minds tell us strange things
which we actually believe (but nobody else does).
> It seems to me that trying to make alcoholics different from heavy
is most likely gray.
> The vast majority of scientific evidence seems to say that
Physiologically alcoholics metabolize alcohol and mind altering
chemicals differently than 80 - 90% of the population (in the United
States, in other places it is higher or lower.
> It appears that the rate of alcoholism is lower in cultures that
cultures that have had it the least amount of time.) See for example
Under the Influence by Milam et al.
> If, therefore, alcoholism is a real disease then it should be
> Some diabetics can control their diabetes by diet, others by
Each one is a "real" diabetic, it is the disease itself that is
different in different people. Some milder, some more severe.
> Some alcoholics get sober in their teens, others in their 80's
Logically it would seem that those in their 80's may have a milder
form of alcoholism as they were able to drink longer, function and
not die. The younger ones perhaps have a very severe form and
therefore are unable to continue.
> We in AA talk a lot about spirituality and higher powers, but I
"spiritual awakening," the "moment of clarity," the
"epiphany," the "emotional/spiritual/psychological
"moment of nonjudgmental awareness" or whatever name it is
given...the moment when we receive the gift of the ability to
> not drink is what it is.
> Some have this moment and go to AA, some to church, some
say "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these
However, we know that Bill had his before any steps whatever. I had
know what the steps were. We all have many,
> many stories about people's spiritual awakening and as the person
who had it describes it, we see what they are talking about because
it happened to us.
> Going to AA does not guarantee sobriety any more than not going
in 1984 and I have been sober ever since. I went to at least 1,000
meetings in my first two years. Since that time I have never had a
period of time more than a week or so that I have not gone to meetings
and I generally go to 3-5 meetings per week. That doesn't
necessarily keep me sober, it is just what I do. I love the people,
the experience, the blending, the hope, the tears, the
laughter....the whole package. Many do not do what I do. It doesn't
make them better or worse or more or less likely to drink. At least
that is my opinion based on my experience.
> Having said all of the above, I'm not sure this "Real or Fake
HistoryLovers. I think the study is very interesting and not
surprising to me, but to try and figure this out does not seem
"figureoutable." There is tremendous wisdom in the phrase
alcoholic when you say you are."
> Dave Smith
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]